The monster galaxy that died too quickly

April 6, 2017

An international team of astronomers has, for the first time, spotted a massive, inactive galaxy from a time when the Universe was only 1.65 billion years old.

Astronomers expect most galaxies from this epoch to be low-mass minnows, busily forming . However, this galaxy is 'a monster' and inactive, according to Professor Karl Glazebrook, Director of Swinburne's Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, who led the team.

The researchers found that within a short time period this massive galaxy, known as ZF-COSMOS-20115, formed all its stars (three times more than our Milky Way today) through an extreme star-burst event. But it stopped forming stars only a billion years after the Big Bang to become a quiescent or 'red and dead' galaxy – common in our Universe today, but not expected to exist at this ancient epoch.

The galaxy is also small and extremely dense, it has 300 billion stars crammed into a region of space about the same size as the distance from the Sun to the nearby Orion Nebula.

Astrophysicists are still debating just how galaxies stop forming stars. Until recently, models suggested dead galaxies or 'red nuggets' such as this should only exist from around three billion years after the Big Bang.

"This discovery sets a new record for the earliest massive red galaxy. It is an incredibly rare find that poses a new challenge to galaxy evolution models to accommodate the existence of such galaxies much earlier in the Universe," Professor Glazebrook says.

This research builds on an earlier Swinburne study that suggested such dead galaxies could exist based on finding dim red objects in extremely deep near-infrared images.

In this latest study, astronomers used the W M Keck telescopes in Hawai'i to confirm the signatures of these galaxies, through the new and unique MOSFIRE spectrograph. They took deep spectra at near-infrared wavelengths to seek out the definitive features signifying the presence of old stars and a lack of active star formation.

"We used the most powerful telescope in the world, but we still needed to stare at this galaxy for more than two nights to reveal its remarkable nature," co-author Professor Vy Tran, from Texas A&M University, says.

Even with large telescopes such as the Keck with a 10 metre mirror, a long viewing time is required to detect absorption lines which are very weak compared to the more prominent emission lines generated by star-forming active galaxies.

"By collecting enough light to measure this galaxy's spectrum, we decipher the cosmic narrative of what stars and elements are present in these galaxies and construct a timeline of when they formed their stars," Professor Tran says.

The observed star-formation rate of this galaxy produces less than one fifth the mass of the Sun a year in new stars, but at its peak 700 million years previously this galaxy formed 5000 times faster.

"This huge galaxy formed like a firecracker in less than 100 million years, right at the start of cosmic history," Professor Glazebrook says.

"It quickly made a monstrous object, then just as suddenly it quenched and turned itself off. As to how it did this we can only speculate. This fast life and death so early in the Universe is not predicted by our modern galaxy formation theories."

Co-author Dr Corentin Schreiber of Leiden University, who first measured the spectrum, speculates that these early firecrackers are obscured behind a veil of dust and that future observations using sub-millimetre wave telescopes will spot these.

"Sub-millimetre waves are emitted by the hot dust which blocks other light and will tell us when these firecrackers exploded and how big a role they played in developing the primordial universe," says Dr Schreiber.

With the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope in 2018, astronomers will be able to build up large samples of these dead due to its high sensitivity, large mirror, and the advantage of no atmosphere in space.

This research has been published in Nature.

Explore further: A massive galaxy long ago and far away

More information: A massive, quiescent galaxy at a redshift of 3.717, Nature, nature.com/articles/doi:10.1038/nature21680

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17 comments

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RNP
5 / 5 (4) Apr 06, 2017
An open access copy of the paper can be found here: https://arxiv.org...1751.pdf
Tuxford
1.9 / 5 (9) Apr 06, 2017
This discovery sets a new record for the earliest massive red galaxy. It is an incredibly rare find that poses a new challenge to galaxy evolution models to accommodate the existence of such galaxies much earlier in the Universe,"

.. a new challenge..Say it ain't so!

How? The galaxy is likely much larger than the observed compact core region.

And the assumed dead condition is likely based on faulty models associating redness with deadness. If red shift is also associated with light climbing out of a deep gravity well—as in SQK physics–then a compact dense region will appear red, and thus dead. And the galaxy will appear more distant than it actually is. Gosh, it ain't rocket science.
Hat1208
4.2 / 5 (10) Apr 06, 2017
@Tuxford

Read the article. I don't believe that it mentions anything about red shift. So you assume and post like a moron.

Ignore button pressed
Captain Stumpy
3.4 / 5 (5) Apr 06, 2017
And the assumed dead condition is likely based on faulty models associating redness with deadness.
@tux
where?

i must have missed that one...

would you mind showing me where it is using the following link?
https://ocw.mit.e...ophysics

thanks
RealityCheck
3.3 / 5 (7) Apr 06, 2017
@ Hat1208 and @Stumpy.

To be fair to Tuxford, the redshift values stated, and the 'massive' and 'quiescent' qualifiers etc used, make the correlation which Tuxford drew clearly an implicit 'given' in/by the paper. The "Monster" title of above article also gives the implicit impression of massive and hence strong gravity well that would redshift outgoing radiation even before and claimed 'intervening expanding space' interpretations on top of that radiation's 'detected properties' from so far away 'here'.
Steelwolf
3 / 5 (6) Apr 06, 2017
@ Hat and Stump, considering that the paper itself is titled:
A massive, quiescent galaxy at a redshift of 3.717, Nature, nature.com/articles/doi:10.1038/nature21680

As Above, would show that, Yes, redshift is certainly mentioned, and even if not in this press writeup, one should well know by now that distance, especially in the 'Primordial Universe', distances are measured solely by their redshift of known spectrum values such as cepheid variables and supernovae. This CAN be thrown off by extreme local gravitation gradients.

Also, since there is an immense amount of dust between us and that galaxy, I am sure that not everything is being seen yet, which is why the researchers are so avid to look there with the James Webb ST in the future.

You guys get so fast to try to stomp others that you forget to reflect the facts in what you are saying. Does not look good at all.
Captain Stumpy
3.7 / 5 (6) Apr 07, 2017
@ Hat and Stump, considering that the paper itself is titled:
A massive, quiescent galaxy at a redshift...

As Above, would show that, Yes, redshift is certainly mentioned
@Steelwolf
try reading what i wrote again

i didn't ask if the paper stated there was redshift, nor did i ask if redshift was mentioned

So - given your obviously superior reading and comprehension skills and my inability to find the data, perhaps you can answer for TUX where TUX has failed to answer or provide evidence?

please show me where all these "faulty models associating redness with deadness" are

more to the point - show where the "assumed dead condition is likely based on faulty models" of any kind, but especially show where they're based on "faulty models associating redness with deadness"

thanks in advance for those references

like i said - i must have missed that one...
i have never seen them
RealityCheck
1 / 5 (2) Apr 07, 2017
@Stumpy.

You asked @Tuxford, @Steelwolf:
...where all these "faulty models associating redness with deadness" are
Here is the latest mention of 'red and dead' longstanding mainstream astronomy/astrophysics/cosmology 'interpretation' and 'correlation':
https://phys.org/...axy.html

NOTE WELL 3rd Para. in linked PO article: "Using data on the electromagnetic radiation emitted by galaxies, the team narrowed in on a question that has confounded astronomers for years. A large fraction of galaxies in our nearby universe appear DEAD AND RED in colour because they are devoid of fresh young stars."


Does that satisfy your challenge, Stumpy? Will you now concede to Tuxford that his observation was correct re the 'common assumption/understanding' which mainstream astronomy/astrophysics/cosmology has been using to 'model' light/spectrometric observations/analysis/interpretations for estimating distance and (in)activity?
RealityCheck
1 / 5 (2) Apr 07, 2017
@Forum.

Wow! Did you see that? The @Uncle Ira bot-voting program downrated '1' within ONE MINUTE of my posting above correct info for Stumpy! Poor @Uncle Ira-bot. Impressive! Bad for objective respectful science and humanity discourse of course, but impressive nonetheless for its reflection of that sad user's quick malice and continuing insensibility. Sad internet loser. Pity it.

PS: There it goes again! Within two minutes this time! Poor sod.
Homebrook
2 / 5 (1) Apr 07, 2017
Hey Leonard Doublet & James Josephides, may I call to your attention that your video has the galaxy spinning backwards! If you're going to do animations of galaxies you might want to depict them spinning the correct direction. After all, physics does have its rules. But, then again, maybe you're one of those postmodern scientists. You know, your truth, my truth, who knows! You're the ones who will destroy science.
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (2) Apr 07, 2017
@Stumpy
@idiot illiterate pseudoscience troll
You asked @Tuxford, @Steelwolf
keywords: Tuxford; Steelwolf
not dumb*ss idiot illiterate pseudoscience sam from oz
Does that satisfy your challenge
1- if you would please take the time to go here first: http://www.readingbear.org/

once you've accomplished the requisite tasks- re-read that again
please show me where all these "faulty models associating redness with deadness" are
to spell it out because i know you're illiterate: Why is it not enough?

1- you offered a quote from an article

2- in no way shape or form is a quote from an article equivalent to a model, let alone a faulty common teaching practice or standard

.

now you will likely attempt to distract the thread into yet another of your diatribes (like your appeal to the forum above)

BUT
if you can't read, you should learn
if english isn't a comfortable language, you should consider translation before commenting

FOAD
RealityCheck
3 / 5 (4) Apr 07, 2017
@Stumpy.

Come on, even you must be able to see that the common correlation 'red and dead' has been around for yonks in professional mainstream astro/cosmo literature/understandings/descriptions. The above article and linked article are merely two more instances of the continuing 'red and dead' correlation. But newer discoveries are now bringing this longstanding naive correlation under serious review and new observations discovering/realizing they WERE old, naive, simplistic interpretations and modeling assumptions. The more complicated/variable energy-space constituents/processes etc NOW being acknowledged by Planck and ever-more sophisticated telescopes/detectors/analyses etc recognize and mention the many possible ways the light seen 'here' may be not as 'clean and tidy' an indication of what is happening 'there' so far away. Why nitpick semantics, Stumpy? Look at the big picture and evolving reality/evidence being increasingly discovered/reviewd by mainstream itself now.
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (2) Apr 07, 2017
@Stumpy
@illiterate lying POS pseudoscience troll
Come on, even you must be able to see
so that's a big fat no then?

you're still making claims that are not capable of being verified, but you want everyone to believe what you write is objective science?

the MIT link is above - feel free to show where this faulty model is taught to impressionable scientists allowing them to make unfounded assumptions

PS - remember this: an article is the subjective opinion of the author
you don't know what information is left out of it or if it is even accurate
this is why actual science uses peer reviewed journals and evidence instead of BS claims from idiots

the scientific method works because no one takes idiots like you as factual without evidence and then subsequent secondary validation

i'll let you get the last word (whine) in, but unless you produce evidence as requested (a simple task) then i'll ignore you and report the post

FOAD
RealityCheck
1 / 5 (2) Apr 08, 2017
Ok, Stumpy. Have it your way. Nasty. Bad.
CaptainRazer
not rated yet Apr 08, 2017
It happened in a documentary on television, the truth that I started to investigate a little more, and it is interesting, I would like to reach its operations center to hawai because I study astronomy and it would be very good to be able to reach hawai from where they discovered this new Very important event for humanity

RFD
not rated yet Apr 08, 2017
I'm thinking that it is assumed that time is constant. If it's relative to the observer, then at the big bang, with the intense gravity present, time should be all messed up from our perspective. I don't think it's strange at all. I think we simply don't have the math that is capable to understand this. Newton had to invent calculus to explain his theory. We need another maths for this too.
RealityCheck
1 / 5 (2) Apr 11, 2017
RFD.
I'm thinking that it is assumed that time is constant. If it's relative to the observer, then at the big bang, with the intense gravity present, time should be all messed up from our perspective.
Well observed! Moreover, the ONLY REAL physical 'time' is actually a 'timing' rate/process MOTIONAL/CHANGES COMPARISONS with respect to 'chosen standard' processes; ie, like any 'chosen clock' state/cycle-repeating-type dynamical system (of whatever suitable scale; even our Earth's orbital period in 'calendar cycle' representation!). So 'time' of current mainstream theories is FALSE notion; more like Philosophical/Metaphysical concept of 'duration' or 'existence' per se. Therefore the ONLY physically real construct is energy-space NOT 'space-time'.
I think we simply don't have the math that is capable to understand this. Newton had to invent calculus to explain his theory. We need another maths for this too.
Again, well observed! I'm working on a reality-based maths.

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